NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Exercise Program Combats Poor Mobility in Older Adults

Exercise Program Combats Poor Mobility in Older AdultsTo combat the issue of poor mobility in older adults, Dr. Jennifer Brach, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, conducted a study to help find an effective way to improve walking in those aged 65 years and older.

Her study, published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine, compared a traditional seated group exercise program with a new program called On the Move, which is conducted while standing. The seated exercise program focused on strength, endurance and flexibility. On the Move focused on the timing and coordination of movements that “tend to be more challenging for participants” and are critical for walking, Brach said.

“As adults age, walking can become more difficult, leading to impaired mobility and difficulty performing everyday tasks,” Brach said. “Incorporating a program like this into an older adult’s regular exercise routine has the potential to increase their mobility and their overall quality of life.”

Both groups met twice a week for 12 weeks in the independent living facilities, senior apartment buildings and senior community centers where participants attend exercise classes. The study looked for changes in gait speed, a strong indicator and predictor of disability, morbidity and mortality. At the conclusion of the study, participants in On the Move had a significantly greater improvement in gait speed than their counterparts who participated in the traditional program.

The average age of participants was 80 years old, and many had chronic conditions and impaired mobility. One-third of the participants had a fear of falling or a history of falls. Additional research is needed to determine program’s long-term effects on disability outcomes.

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How to Safely Watch the Solar Eclipse

The United States will experience a partial – and in some places total – solar eclipse on Aug. 21. This is a rare natural phenomenon that many Americans consider the must-watch event of the year. However, without proper eye protection, looking at a partial solar eclipse could cause permanent eye damage.

In most of the U.S., the eclipse will only be partial, meaning the entire sun won’t be blocked out by the moon. According to Dr. Deepinder Dhaliwal, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and director of refractive surgery and cornea service at the UPMC Eye Center, looking at a partial eclipse with the naked eye can be very dangerous.

”When looking at the sun, the eye takes in light through a lens that focuses it onto a delicate structure in the back of the eye known as the retina,” Dhaliwal said. “When sunlight becomes concentrated on the retina, it can result in a painless burn.”

This burn can result in irreversible blind spots in the vision that patients can’t receive treatment for.

“Picture the sun’s rays going through a magnifying glass and burning a hole through a leaf,” Dhaliwal said. “The same thing would be happening to your retina if you looked at the solar eclipse with a naked eye.”

To avoid retinal damage, Dhaliwal recommends solar eclipse viewers invest in official solar eclipse glasses. To avoid purchasing fake or low-quality glasses, the American Astronomical Society has compiled a list of reputable brands.

“They should have ‘ISO 12312-2’ printed somewhere on them,” Dhaliwal said.

Even after purchasing the glasses, proper use and caution is necessary to ensure eye safety. One common misperception is being able to look through a camera or a pair of binoculars with the glasses on.

“If you’re wearing your eclipse glasses, do not look through a pair of binoculars,” Dhaliwal said. “You need to have eclipse filters in the front of the binoculars. Just wearing the glasses is not enough.”

Any household object with holes in it, such as a colander, can also be used to cast a shadow of the sun to view the eclipse indirectly for no cost to the viewer. When the light is projected through the object’s holes, the shadow will morph into crescents once the eclipse occurs.

Those traveling to a location within the path of totality, where the sun will be completely covered by the moon, are safe to view the eclipse without any eye protection during those few minutes. In the rest of the country, however, eye protection needs to be worn.

“The eclipse is a spectacle to behold, but it isn’t worth losing your vision,” Dhaliwal said.

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Lactation Center of Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC Designed to Help New Mothers

Lactation Center of Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC Designed to Help New MothersAugust is National Breastfeeding Month, an annual celebration to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and improve the health of babies.

We asked Deborah Perl, lactation consultant at the Lactation Center of Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, about some benefits of breastfeeding. The lactation center is a fully equipped resource to all new mothers and infants, and they are currently working toward gaining accreditation from Keystone 10, a quality improvement initiative that aims to protect, promote and support to all Pennsylvania infants and mothers.

What is a lactation consultant?

A. Lactation consultants are certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and are breastfeeding specialists trained to teach mothers how to feed their baby. For some women, breastfeeding comes very naturally and for others it takes time, patience and a little extra support. Our trained lactation staff sees all new mothers during their postpartum hospital stay upon request or referral to ensure they are comfortable with breastfeeding. We teach moms breastfeeding techniques, we discuss feeding schedules and talk to moms about their fears and frustrations.  We also help mothers who want to breastfeed but may need to, or choose to, supplement. We strongly feel that all new moms should supported and encouraged, regardless of their feeding decision.

What are some common challenges and available resources for breastfeeding mothers?

A. Some common challenges include uncomfortable or sore breasts and concern about the baby getting enough food. The Magee Lactation Center has plenty of available resources for mothers experiencing challenges including postpartum consultations for mothers with ongoing breastfeeding problems and a 24-hour service line to assist with any questions. The center also has recently expanded to a full-service retail center offering breast pump rentals, nursing and maternity bras, nursing pillows and a complete line of breastfeeding aids and accessories.

How does Magee support breastfeeding mothers?

A. We provide education and support to mothers before birth and throughout their breastfeeding journey. From prenatal classes to bedside consultations, we support a mother’s decision to breastfeed. In addition to providing resources for new mothers, the Magee Lactation Center provides support and education to hospital staff. We train registered nurses to properly assist new mothers with their babies.

For more information, call the Lactation Center at Magee at 412-641-1121 or visit their website.

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Young and Old Bond Through Summer Nutrition Program, Games and Activities

Located just outside of Pittsburgh, Braddock has the second-highest number of senior citizens living alone and in poverty in Allegheny County. In under-served communities, two of the most vulnerable population groups are older adults and young children.

Young and Old Bond Through Summer Nutrition Program, Games and ActivitiesA summer nutrition program created by students from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health aims to combat this problem by offering a free, balanced lunch to both young children and older adults who otherwise may not be able to afford one.

Called “Assembly of the Ages,” an inaugural event organized with local non-profit Heritage Community Initiatives brought together people under the age of 18 and over 55 for an afternoon of games and activities while they enjoyed a gourmet, chef-prepared lunch. At the event on July 18, seniors and children bonded as they wrote down personal goals in areas of wellness, nutrition, activities and social interaction. After lunch, seniors watched as the children played a game of kickball.

“The purpose of the program is to make sure families don’t have to make the difficult choice between paying a bill in the summer or putting food on the table for their children,” said Laura Kelley, director of business development at Heritage Community Initiatives, which serves about 50 meals and snacks daily in the summer to children in Braddock who qualify for the free lunch program during the school year.

The Assembly of Ages initiative was led by two interns through Bridging the Gaps, a program run out of Pitt Public Health. Bridging the Gaps promotes public health in under-served communities and trains health service professionals. Every year, it recruits future clinicians for an internship program where they are assigned to lead a project that will directly impact the community and have lasting effects after the summer ends.

This summer, Bridging the Gaps interns Amy Zahn from Pitt School of Pharmacy and Lan Pham from Pitt School of Nursing wanted  a hands-on experience to get a better understanding of what  patients may faYoung and Old Bond Through Summer Nutrition Program, Games and Activitiesce in their daily lives.

“As future health care providers, we need to understand all the aspects that go into our patients’ care,” Zahn said. “The daily stressors will affect how somebody views their health, and through this internship, we’re learning exactly what those stressors are and why some [patients] may not be as adherent as we would like them to be.”

After hosting two Assembly of the Ages events, Zahn and Pham collected data and created a final project advising Heritage Community Initiatives on activities that will keep the children working toward their goals. Ultimately, Heritage Community Initiatives wants to routinely incorporate senior citizens into its program. Zahn and Pham are creating a plan to keep the lunches going throughout the year through the Heritage Grandparents Program.

“It’s a great way to bring the kids and seniors together,” said Shiane Prunty, community volunteer. “Some kids don’t have ideal parenting so this gives them some love, guidance and even helps teach them manners.”

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Fox Chapel Student Receives UPMC St. Margaret Volunteer Services Student Scholarship

University of Pittsburgh-bound student Jung An “Anna” Shin is the 2017 recipient of the UPMC St. Margaret’s Volunteer Services Scholarship for Outstanding Teen Volunteers. Students who receive this award must be graduating high school and have at least 100 volunteer hours. The award for $1,000 will go toward her college expenses.

Shin, who recently graduated from Fox Chapel high school, began volunteering at UPMC St. Margaret the summer before her freshman year. Because she plans to enter the medical field as either a neurologist or a neurosurgeon, volunteering at a hospital seemed like a perfect first step toward that goal.

“This volunteer opportunity was a great way for me to learn how to treat patients, as well as how to help make the hospital a more welcoming and less intimidating place,” she said. “Those are skills that will be very useful to me in the medical field someday.”

Some of Shin’s assignments at UPMC St. Margaret included Ambulatory Surgery and Food/Nutrition. She said these duties have affirmed her dreams for her career path.

“What I have learned every summer was unprecedented and valuable because I was able to personally interact with patients and their families,” Shin said. “Volunteering in a hospital definitely confirmed my desire to study a pre-medicine track and fueled my goal to become a physician.”

During her time as a volunteer, Shin was given various tasks and projects, some more difficult than others. According to Diane Kolling, director, UPMC St. Margaret Volunteer and Guest Services, Shin proved she was capable of any task she was given.

“Anna also was assigned to a pilot patient-mobility project, and I was really impressed with how flexible she was as we worked out the process, and how comfortable she was with patients.”

Shin is grateful to receive support in continuing her education.

“With the help of this scholarship and the experience I received through volunteering, I am on my way to becoming a physician who is confident, empathetic and respectful toward my patients and colleagues,” noted Shin.

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